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Alert sounded over Covid vaccine fraud

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People are being asked to warn family, friends, and vulnerable neighbours about fraudsters who try and exploit the coronavirus vaccine campaign, after two recent incidents being investigated by detectives.

Yesterday (January 20th) a man and woman entered the home of a 92-year-old woman in Eston, who she believed was from the NHS and giving the Covid vaccine.

The victim was distracted by the woman and the man took money from inside the address before both criminals fled. The elderly lady was uninjured but left shaken and confused by the event. Detectives are conducting house-to-house enquiries and are looking at CCTV in the area.

A 76-year-old woman was in the garden of an address on Fabian Road in Eston at around 11am on January 19th when she was approached by a woman wearing a visor, plastic pinafore, and carrying a vanity case offering to give the victim a private vaccine for £100.

Despite the perpetrator being persistent, the victim realised it was a scam and declined, and the woman left in a car towards Church Lane. The description of the fraudster is of skinny build with a ‘geordie' accent.

The NHS gives this advice which we are urging people to share:

Coronavirus vaccines are only available on the NHS. You can be contacted by the NHS, your employer, or a GP surgery local to you, to receive your vaccine. Remember, the vaccine is free of charge. At no point will you be asked to pay.

  • The NHS will never ask you for your bank account or card details.
  • The NHS will never ask you for your PIN or banking password.
  • The NHS will never arrive unannounced at your home to administer the vaccine.
  • The NHS will never ask you to prove your identity by sending copies of personal documents such as your passport, driving licence, bills or pay slips. 

Superintendent Emily Harrison said: "These are two particularly distressing cases and we are concerned that people are exploiting the vaccine campaign in this way. Fraudsters do not care who their victim is, that's why we must do all we can to tell our family, friends, neighbours, and colleagues about the tactics that they use. We need to work together to close the door and hang up the phone on these criminals.

"Our detectives are investigating both cases and will be looking at CCTV in the local area and doing all we can to find those responsible."

Mark Adams, Director of Public Health for South Tees, said: "We have seen how pleased people have been to receive the vaccine when it is their turn to do so, but sadly this positivity also brings out criminals who look to steal money on the back of the life-saving programme.

"Please remember, the NHS will always provide the vaccine free of charge. The NHS will never ask for, or accept, cash for vaccines, never ask for your bank details or identity documents and will never come to your house unannounced.

"The roll-out of the vaccine promises great hope for everybody, but please be careful not to fall victim to fraud."

Anyone with information on these incidents can call police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Those who believe they have been a victim of fraud can also contact Action Fraud on their helpline 0300 123 2040.

More information is available in the government's Covid vaccine fraud guidance document (PDF).